October 31, 2013

Carding Central

This week is all about getting ready for my next fiber show, the Royal Alpaca Challenge in Conyers, Georgia.  Although it isn't technically a "yarn" show, it's an opportunity for me to hang out with some pretty darned cute alpaca, eavesdrop on a class or two being held in the fiber room (where my booth will be located), chat with friends I haven't seen in ages, offer my wares to the public, and, of course, get in some extra knitting time!

Since I don't only dye yarn and design knitwear patterns, I have begun to take advantage of having an incredible group of local alpaca breeders from whom I can acquire entire blanket fleeces in a rainbow of colors pretty much any time I need them.  I didn't go to SAFF (Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fair) this year, which goes against what has become an annual trip for fleece.  Not going to SAFF hasn't actually impacted my fleece stash any, though.  The point is, I have several trash bags full of fluffy clouds of alpaca in my new studio that are just begging for someone to spin them into something magic.  So this week, it's been Carding Central around here.  The Royal Alpaca Challenge offers a spinners' circle and classes, and spinners at an alpaca show need alpaca to spin, so I've been drum carding some newly acquired fleece in dark grey, silver, and maroon.  Of course, I'll also bring some uncarded (but cleaned) maroon cria fleece in case anyone wants to card/blend it themselves. The batts are pretty lovely in all their natural and undyed glory. And even if you aren't joining the circle, well I will have plenty of alpaca and llama batts for you to take home to your own wheel.

Of course, you can also get alpaca from me via my Etsy shop just like what I'll be taking to the alpaca show.  If you are looking for something that you don't see in the shop, send me a message and I'll see what I can do for you.

I've also donated two hanks of hand painted fingering weight handspun (70% cria (baby) alpaca / 30% soy silk).  I've put off all of the housework the past few days, especially the folding of the laundry that lies in mounds throughout the house, and spun them on my Kromski Sonata because I always end up waiting until the last minute with these things. Having just finished them this morning, I dyed them with some bright but woodsy colors that are perfect for this late autumn season.

I hope they bring a good price, as the proceeds from the auction go to the Georgia Alpaca Association, which promotes the promotion and advancement of alpacas and alpaca breeders in Georgia through educational opportunities.  It's a good cause, especially since I have heard tell that at least one couple from Atlanta visited an alpaca farm recently and asked the farmer if the blue free-range hens eggs they saw in the grass had been laid by his alpaca. (No joke.) Of course, my two hanks of handspun aren't the only items up for auction. I'm on the fence about taking the triangle loom that I procured from this auction last year since I hear tell that there will be a triangular loom class this weekend during the festivities.  There also appears to be another 3-foot loom that has been donated for the auction.

Because there are other things on my mind this week besides the RAC,  here's a little preview of my upcoming blog giveaway, which I hope to host next week:

There will be a giveaway for at least one, but maybe two, printed copies of the new Knit Picks Bulky collection which features my Everdene wrap.

If you've already gotten your Knit Picks catalogue, that's my wrap on pg. 12.  (I'm still doing a happy dance!)  I'm waiting on the mailman to bring these copies, so probably next week I will be inviting everyone to enter.

October 29, 2013

FO: Skywalker Semi-circular Shawl

This little number has been finished for a few weeks now, but I've been hanging on to it until my mama's birthday.  This is my modified version of Laura Nelkin's Skywalker.

Months and months ago, my mama gave me a few skeins of Miansuoxi Mountain Goat Mink/Cashmere because it was a much lighter weight than she had thought it would be (one in a petal pink and one in this racy Christmas-y red).  My mama is a lover of all things red, so I knew that I was going to have to do something with the red skein for her.

This shawl was a pretty simply pattern to knit, but I did make one considerable change to the pattern.  In the pattern, there are two separate sections that use what is referred to as the "plasma stitch".  Knitters know this stitch as the Seafoam Stitch.  

Unfortunately, after knitting it and tearing it out multiple times, I realized that the yarn that I was using was just not meant to knit this pattern stitch.  It looked too wonky and uneven--a silkier yarn  would have worked better to stretch out the dropped stitches, but not cashmere/mink.  So, to combat this dilemma, I chose a pattern stitch to replace the number of rows that would be used up by these two sections and knit those rows with a mirrored totem pole stitch.  

Because this took up the total number or rows for two non-adjacent sections, this change really altered the look of the shawl, though I think it looks better than the original design, myself. In my version, there is one less patterned section, but the stitch count came out just fine and I just cruised to the end of the last section.  This pattern then required me to knit on instead of graft on a border. The entirety of the body of the shawl took me a week to knit. The edging, itself, took another week.  It was a fiddly repeat of about 4-12 stitches, depending on the row and it just seemed to go on, and on, and on …

I've given this shawl to my mother for her birthday, though I expect that she will wear it more like a scarf or a cowl than an over-the-shoulder shawl. It will be a perfect accessory for the holiday season, I think.

October 24, 2013

The Daily Hat

So you know that I have a new line of yarn out this fall/winter called Flock 225, right.  It's pure virgin wool and I love, love, love it!  I love it so much that I designed a cute lace beret with it:  The Daily Hat.

This is the kind of hat that you stuff in your coat pocket or purse when you go inside and wear everywhere for every occasion when you go outside.  It's apparently so amazing that my 10 year-old, my now nearly professional knitwear model, who pretty much "hates" every knitted thing made for her, even if she specifically asks for it, said "This is an awesome slouchy mom!"  She's already made her request and swears she'll "wear it all the time!"  It's passed the diva pre-teen test, so you know it's going to be a crowd pleaser.

The Daily Hat is designed as a one-size-fits-all (she's 10 and it fits her; I haven't been 10 in a very long time and it fits me) and is constructed using a diamond moss stitch pattern that I am absolutely in love with. (There seems to be a lot of love associated with this hat!) I knit the whole thing in a few days, and that includes making notes as I went.  The construction is simple and can be accomplished on a 16-inch cable or larger if you prefer, like I do, to work everything with the magic loop method. The pattern includes written directions. I thought about doing a chart for the diamond moss stitch pattern, but we're talking about a chart for a 9-stitch repeat, basically, so a chart just seemed too fiddly.

This pattern is now available on Ravelry, Etsy, and Craftsy.  If you happen to be in my neck of the woods, it will also be available in print form at the Royal Alpaca Challenge in Conyers, Georgia (Nov. 1-3).

October 23, 2013

Everdene and The Collection

Today is the big day.  Really big.  So excited that I could burst!!!!!

The Everdene Wrap makes its debut in Knit Picks latest (due to be released today so keep your eyes peeled!) Bulky Fall/Winter Pattern Collection (I have no idea if that's the actual title--this has been a very hush, hush endeavor).  As of this minute, it hasn't appeared on the website (I've been checking every 30 minutes or so since 5:30 am), but it's coming.  I can only show a few snippets, I'm afraid, until after the big reveal.


At first, I was downtrodden when I received the email a year ago about my submission that said "we can't use your pattern for the submission collection", but then I read further and the email said that my pattern was going to be used for a special collection.  Okay, that's cool, right?  So I followed the schedule, felt totally awkward and apologetic for my lack of experience with the whole professional publication process--usually they just say "Here's some yarn. Write it, test it, format it however you like, photograph it, send it in."  Not this time.  There were rules and editors and deadlines and photo shoots and templates.  The more the year progressed, the more unclear I was about why there were so many hoops to jump through.  There was a considerable amount of secrecy and tidbits of information doled out on a need-to-know basis.  Glenna C.'s Classic Color collection came out on the Knit Picks website in September, and when the catalogue arrived in my mailbox I thought "how amazing would it be if my pattern were to be printed in the catalogue in a special collection layout like this!"  (Secretly I long to be Glenna C.  No joke.  She's my knitting idol.)  When the pattern came to my inbox for final edits, it was GORGEOUS!!!  I was thrilled to the core just with the way they made my written instructions seem so polished and had done the charting for me so nicely, let alone with the pictures of the seriously beautiful model wearing the test-knit in a bright teal color I hadn't expected but absolutely loved.  I was going to be happy with a footnote at the back of the catalogue at this point just because the pattern was such absolute eye candy.

And then came a request for me to write a description of the inspiration for the pattern.  Well, that was new.  No one who had agreed to publish my patterns has asked for that before.  I guess it's a good thing that I actually had one.  Coincidentally, my mother had asked me the very same thing about two weeks prior--"Why did you name it Everdene?"

Here's why:  The wrap is pretty simple.  I could have made it incredibly complicated, but the bulky recycled yarn that I had originally begun to knit it with was sort of rustic and tweedy and I thought, you know, something rustic and simple is what this yarn wants.  So that was the onset of the pattern. When I sent in the submission, Knit Picks sent me a dark solid yarn to test the pattern with (Wallaby), and wow!, that really made the pattern pop!  And when it was knit up and I tried it on, I got the picture of a novel heroine in my head and I just knew that one of my favorite authors, Thomas Hardy, had created a character in Far From the Madding Crowd that would, seriously, wear this wrap to market or for a stroll down a country lane with a beau she had no intention of marrying. I guess that's a little too much of the English teacher pushing through, right?  So, to make a long story short, I named it Everdene after the tragic heroine Bathsheba Everdene.  (She's only tragic because she's too much of a diva for rural Victorian England and can't ever be satisfied.) By definition, I guess that makes this wrap the perfect accessory for both the pastoral beauty AND the urban diva.  Such a deal!

And then it came.  The email that pretty much bowled me over and left me sputtering.  The one that said "We will be sending you … copies of the book."  Really? There's a book?  Yes. There's a book.  My Everdene Wrap is in a BOOK!!  Wow.  What else does one say to that besides just "Wow." Weeks later, I'm still just saying "Wow", but gushing with joy when I say it (and still doing my happy dance). I just wish Blogger would quit changing the color of the picture every time I load a new one.

So now I am nervously (I don't know why "nervously" because I have the photo shoot pics and I know what it's going to look like) awaiting the arrival of my copies of "The Book" and the debut on the Knit Picks website. (Yes, I just paused to see if it had gone live yet; it hasn't.)

I hope everyone will go to the website and check it out, buy it, knit it, love it, show up at some fiber festival where I have a booth and show it off ... because, well, it is written for a variety of sizes and it's IN A BOOK!

Happy knitting to you all! (Happy dance, happy dance!)

October 22, 2013

Sportswoman Glove Pattern

Just in time for the cold weather months (or rainy weather months, as your case may be), I give you The Sportswoman Gloves.

This pattern is written in much the same way as the very popular Sportsman pattern, but it is different in that it doesn't bag between the wrist and the thumb.  If you've tried to knit The Sportsman for yourself, ladies, then you know what I am talking about.  A woman's hand is simply not designed in the same manner that a man's hand is.  A woman's hand is sleek and contoured, and so are these made-to-order gloves!

This pattern requires the use of fingering weight wool.  Pictured here, the pattern is knit with fingering weight Peruvian wool.  This pattern also works extremely well with fingering sock weight yarns, including superwash BFL and superwash merino.  Designed to move with your hand, these gloves are an excellent option for driving gloves, outdoor sporting even gloves (keep your hands warm AND use your touch-screen electronics!), and as an underlayer for mittens or fingerless mitts.

The Sportswoman is written to accommodate three general hand sizes (small, medium, large) and will basically fit any female hand from ages 9 through 900.  The smallest size, modeled by my 10 year-old daughter, is designed to fit a wrist circumference of 6.0 inches and a palm width of 3.25 inches (base of thumb across palm).  The medium size, which I think is probably the most common hand size, is designed to fit a wrist circumference of 7.0 inches and a palm width of 3.5 inches. The large size is designed to fit a wrist circumference of 7.5 inches and a palm width of 4 inches.

Instructions are included in the pattern to increase lengths of thumb, fingers, and palm so that your gloves fit you, well, like a glove!

This pattern is a perfect gift for children, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, and those difficult-to-shop-for friends and relatives on your holiday gift-giving list!

Find and download it on Etsy, on Ravelry, on Craftsy, and shortly on Patternfish.

October 08, 2013

Frantically knitting for Fall

It's been over a month since my last post, and I'm not even remotely sure where September went!  It's been such a busy few weeks around the farm that my best blogging intentions have just gone unanswered.  There was the finishing of designs for submissions, the winding and dying to prep for the Georgia Alpaca Fiberfest at Callaway Gardens (smashing good time!!), attending that event, a week of recovering the house after the family was home without me to clean up after them for three whole days, knitting like mad, spinning, carding the 10 lbs of alpaca blanket fleece that I acquired at the end of September, working around the farm to get ready for the cooler weather and get more fruit trees/bushes in the ground before the first frost arrives, the building of a new addition onto the back of the house so that I could have a laundry room and studio (that's still, on the inside, a cosmetic work in progress), dying more yarn (50/50 alpaca/mohair heavy weight lace debuts tomorrow!), and trying to finish up the testing of this pattern, my female counterpart to The Sportsman Gloves.  We'll call these The Sportswoman, and apologize for their rough appearance because we're in the test phase, not the finishing phase.

This is the medium and large, and I'm casting on today for the small size.  Now I realize that there is another pattern that just came out on Ravelry that looks a lot like these, but they are one-size-might-fit-all (which is totally unrealistic) and I think the Ravelry poster offers the pattern for free because the pattern's not well-tested.  Besides, I'm thinking hers look A LOT like my Sportsman, which has been out for two years, and I'll leave it up to you to read what you like between those lines. Just sayin'.  Anyway, the small size is the last to test and I am hoping to have that wrapped up by early next week with a pattern finished and available.

Other things that have been harassing my knitting brain in the last month … There's the Skywalker lace shawl that I've been working in red cashmere.

This is actually a bright Christmas red, but Blogger keeps changing the color in the picture for me, so you will have to use your imagination. This is also actually NOT the original Skywalker shawl pattern, though it looks pretty close in this picture.  I had to make some modifications to one section and remove a second because, well, I'm going to blame my yarn.  The pattern stitch just looked frickin' UGLY in this yarn, though it looks great in the pictures of shawls that follow the pattern completely.  Sometimes the yarn just doesn't want to be knit in a certain pattern and no matter how many times (three, in this case) you frog and re-knit, it's not going to play nicely.  Anyway, I'm on the interminable edging and, although the body took me about a week and 1/2, the edging might take me through the end of the year.  It's tedious for my currently very short attention span.

And let's not forget about this top-down hand-painted BFL v-neck that I started in August.  I just wanted something simple that I could throw on in a pinch.  This project is also giving me fits because I can't decide what I want the final outcome to be.  I've finished the neck and knit to about 6 inches below the arm holes, and now we're in a holding pattern.  It's great through the boobs, but WAY too baggy beneath.  I'm taking a deep breath and mulling over whether or not I want to hazard ripping back and putting in a long section of 2 x 1 ribbing for the body.

So more to come on this one.  I was hoping to have it done by now, but sometimes you need to step back and re-group.

I do, believe it or not, have an FO to report.  The Peasant Shawl, by Fiesta Yarns, that I started as a KAL with my mother in July is finished.  I ended up using about 150 yards less than the pattern called for, but this one just got to the point where I felt that it needed to be done.

I don't know why this looks like two different yarns between the pictures. The yarn is a Knit Picks super cheap Wool of the Andes tweed in a chocolate brown with tan flecks.  I haven't blocked it yet, but I have determined that the pattern should have suggested using a loose bind off because it's stretchy except for the bind off edge, which happens to be the bottom edge that wraps around the body.  It's a good little thing to throw around the shoulders while computing, though.

Finally, here's a peek at a couple of the new extra fine alpaca DK weight hand paints in the shop for your knitting or crocheting pleasure.




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